Vulnerability is being touted as the new bargaining advantage. While there is some merit to that perspective, I thought it was worth a few moments to explore the good, the bad and the ugly of various versions we’re seeing with this phenomenon.
Traditional models of negotiation had us holding our cards close to our chest and being careful not to give away too much. Heaven forbid we disclosed our true heart’s desire in our hard-boiled negotiation style. There was much posturing, diversion tactics and smoke screens to obfuscate the real end goal.
I probably used to be guilty of this approach to some degree myself as it was our conditioned response. I’m no longer a fan of this approach. In my experience, when both parties create the space for honest, open communications it allows for more creative solutions that better meet the needs of all parties.
Getting curious allows us to peek behind the curtain to ascertain the unstated needs really driving the discussion. Bringing empathy to the table, seeking to truly understand and meet the needs of the other party wherever possible will get better outcomes.
Taking this new approach and allowing openness requires a certain level of vulnerability. And this is a good thing. It allows for humanity in the discussion. It triggers reciprocity, thereby triggering a chain of collaborative thinking that typically leads to better results and less positional bargaining.
It can also be beneficial for the other party as it feeds our human need to be altruistic, evoking their empathy and allowing them to step up as a better version of themselves. This in turn feeds the ego.
Having said that, vulnerability is not the same thing as victimhood. There seems to be some confusion about that distinction these days as we see increasing celebrations of victimhood which serve no one.
I knew this trend had hit critical mass when I attended a Union convention a few years back. Virtually every single candidate running for position shared some personal intimate trauma or experience and cried at the mic when it was their turn to speak about their platform. These are the same trade unionists who a few years prior were still beating their chests, banging the table and storming out of negotiation rooms. Somewhere along the path to exploring their vulnerable side, they missed the middle ground.
And this is not a surprise when we consider the modelling we’re seeing in recent years. Most mega-influencers have mastered the craft of crying on demand. In fact, some story-telling and speaking coaches seem to suggest that a signature talk is not complete unless you muster up a tear or two at relevant points in the delivery. Heck, even Tony Robbins has apparently decided that crying is in vogue.
Personally, I’m not a fan of staged crying for impact. I believe vulnerability is key when it’s authentic. It’s a powerful tool in bargaining and in life generally. However, honesty, authenticity and integrity are also key. The two need to be balanced.
Powerful negotiation is based on relationship. Strong relationships need to be based on a bedrock of trust. This trust is fundamentally eroded when it’s based on a lie. So, by all means be open. Be honest. Be yourself. Build rapport. Bring empathy. Be flexible. Tap in to your intuition.
Share your real needs and seek to determine the underlying needs of the other party. But do not create artificial drama as a means to build unmerited sympathy. This crosses from vulnerability to manipulation.
Authentic vulnerability can build trust whereas manufactured versions break it. As you explore your vulnerability and tap into the inherent goodness to be mined in doing so, I invite you to consider its flavour and to avoid the bad and ugly versions we’re seeing modelled today.
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